An increasing number of baby boomers are already eligible to retire. Many are readily embracing the new opportunities retirement can offer, and others continue working either in full time or part time positions. While there is significant information on the importance of financial planning for retirement, this article focuses on retirement planning from a non-financial perspective.

As retirement nears, the obvious questions to ponder include finances and time. Why is retirement such a huge decision? If we make the leap into retirement, what can a typical retiree expect today? According to AARP, “few people see retirement as a time when they’ll put their feet up and do nothing. Increasingly people expect to work past 65 or 67, even if their job is something completely different from what they’ve done their whole life.”1

Many workers have difficulty leaving their job or employer, perhaps because their jobs are often a defining part of who they are. In other words, their job is an association of who and what they represent. After all, many individuals spend 40 or more years building their careers, but little time thinking about building a life after work. By looking beyond the separation anxiety, one may be able to identify new opportunities, including turning hobbies into a part-time business or having greater time to pursue other interests that working full time doesn’t allow.

Transitioning from working to retiring happens either by choice or force. Some are forced into retirement as a result of economic downturns or through a lay off. This can represent a difficult transition, since many of these individuals had planned on working longer. Let’s face it, being near retirement age and searching for employment to replace current income can be challenging, if not downright impossible.

Retirement is often viewed as a change in lifestyle from reporting to work every day to having time to do things that have been put on hold. Someone once said, “Americans spend more time planning their annual vacations than they do planning their retirement.” While vacations are important, American workers will cumulatively spend less than three years on vacation, yet potentially 20 years or more in retirement! Thus financial and lifestyle planning factors are critical.
When considering retirement, a common question from coworkers is, “What will you do with your time?” There are many opportunities to fill your time, sometimes too many options! Research of happy retirees indicates a common denominator of staying active and maintaining good health.

In 2002, David Evans, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Western Ontario, and Terry Lynn Gall, professor of human services at Saint Paul University, surveyed 109 men between six to seven years after retirement with the men’s age ranging from 62 to 75. These men were employed in a variety of positions, from professionals to blue-collar workers. Evans and Gall’s survey resulted in key findings that the lack of meaningful relationships, boredom, and adjusting to change adversely affected these retirees more than financial challenges or poor health.2

Individuals who have successfully transitioned to retirement often have planned their retirement interests and activities well in advance of their retirement date, maintained a positive outlook, and are able to easily navigate into a new phase of their life. The positive and negative aspects of retirement today include:

  • More time to explore interests, hobbies, and personal friendships
  • More purpose in life
  • Ability to choose your schedule
  • Alarm clock no longer required and you can’t get fired
  • Loneliness, boredom, and feeling of uselessness
  • Easy to become lazy
  • May have less income

It is up to each of us to build a life that is enjoyable, regardless if we are working or retired. It may mean volunteering, part-time work, hobbies, and many other self-selected activities. It is important to understand and plan for a transition from full-time employment. Retirement is a huge change and many retirees will miss the structure that a job provides. Staying active can provide a bridge from full-time work into an enjoyable leisure-filled life. Retirement means different things to different people. Have you considered what it means to you?

Endnotes

  1. 10 Nov. 2014 <http://www.aarp.org/work/ retirement-planning/info-06-2011/whatdoes-retirement-mean-to-you.htm>
  2. Zelinski, Ernie J, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. Edmonton, AB, Canada: Visions Int’l Publishing, 2013.

Linda S Hackleman, PHR, is assistant manager, Human Resources and Organizational Development at TG and can be reached at Linda. Hackleman@tgslc.org.

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